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The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma (Read 4102 times)

Offline 88keys

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The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
« on: November 13, 2002, 09:20:04 PM »
I would like to hear your opinion on the following issue:

To what extent must one follow the fingering given in the Chopin Etudes, in order to get the right technique? Does anybody know if the fingerings given were indeed given by Chopin himself?

For example, in Op. 10/9, I find it much easier to execute the left hand arpeggio on the first few measures with 5-3-1-3-1-3 instead of the 5-4-1-4-1-4 given.  

I know that 5-3-1 needlessly strains the wrist and fingers of the AVERAGE hand. But my hands are larger than average, and my fingers are longer, which makes this alternative much more comfortable to me.

Or so it seems. I can't help worrying that "taking the law into my own fingers" (so to speak) might damage my techinque or even my health, in the long run.

What do you think? Just how critical is the exact fingering to mastering the etudes?

P.S. The above is only an example for one etude. But there are several others in which I find alternative fingerings more comfortable to my hands. Any comments or examples from the other etudes would be most appreciated.

Sheet music to download and print: Etudes by Chopin



Offline selsa

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #1 on: November 13, 2002, 09:58:54 PM »
88 Keys,

You are right.  I have the same problem. I am learning that same piece also, and the first four 3-quarter beats of the right hand are suggested to be played 1-3-2-3. I don't know why that was suggested rather than the easier 1-2-1-2.

BTW, it seems like suggested fingering varies from one publisher to another.

If you have already learned the piece, can you tell me the steps you took and how long it took you for each step? (learning/studying the tab, initial attempt to play, repetitions required to memorize the piece, etc.)

Cheers,
-Selsa.
"...the luckiest man I know." - Arthur Rubinstein about himself.

Offline selsa

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #2 on: November 13, 2002, 10:00:33 PM »
Sorry, my preferrred fingering for the above notes is 1-2-2-3, not 1-2-1-2 (which I was told in this forum is awkward, I agree.)

-Selsa
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Offline 88keys

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #3 on: November 13, 2002, 10:50:23 PM »
What 3-quarter beats?

Are you refering to the four eighth notes beginning the piece (rests not included)?

Assuming we are talking about the same thing, the
fingering for the right hand is not particularly important. The right hand only provides the melody, while the left hand gets the real challange in this etude: Using your wrist to achieve a good legato over wide intervals.

So in this specific etude, any reasonable fingering for the right hand will probably do just fine.

It is only the left hand I'm worried about.

Offline 88keys

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #4 on: November 13, 2002, 11:12:38 PM »
Sorry my post was cut short.

Here is the rest of it:

It is only the left hand I'm worried about here. I just can't help feeling that if Chopin wrote 5-4-1 (assuming the fingering really is by Chopin) than he must have known what he was doing...

BTW, I have not "already learned the piece" yet.  I am still in the process ofl learning it, and there is a fairly tricky part which still gives me trouble (m.25 to 28). I found it a good habit to decide on the exact fingering in the early stages of practicing a piece.


Offline davy10tunes

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #5 on: November 14, 2002, 04:11:39 PM »
I have just had a quick go of this piece.My edition also gives the 5-4-1 fingering which, to me seems unnecessarily awkward.For me it is impossible to play the first two notes(f - c) "legatissimo" with the 5-4 fingering without changing my hand position, which you don't need to do if you use 5-3-1.Always use the fingering which suits you best, afterall, when you perform this piece the audience wont care what fingering you use, so use the easiest and safest possible as this will give the best end result.Hope this helps. ;)
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Offline ned

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #6 on: November 14, 2002, 05:32:48 PM »
Relax everybody!
I have played op 10 no 9 for more than forty years. I believe that the 5414 fingering is Chopin's but he was 5 foot 7.  I am 6 foot 7.  I have always used the third finger of the left hand in that passage. The only issue is keeping the third finger from dominating the figure or becoming a stationary pivot. Keep the left hand fingers active and supple. Don't let the wrist try do all the work, or it will get sloppy. I have read that the reason for using 4 instead of 3 is to avoid rigidity and to keep that particular note from sticking out.
The figure gets really challenging on page two.
You should also work on Prelude op 28 no 24. Similar figure.

Selsa,
I checked a number of editions of the Chopin Etudes. For the opening of the right hand they all prescribe 2-3 2-3, which upon reflection is the way to go. It ensures the two-note slur, which is what is written. And it is more "professional" than the alternatives.

Op 10 no 9 is a wonderful piece.
So get back to work!
Ned

Offline selsa

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #7 on: November 14, 2002, 06:48:33 PM »
My appologies. You're right, 88 keys. The four main notes at the beginning are (dotted) eighths. So we are talking about the same piece.

My version has a 1-3-2-3 and is found on http://sheetmusiconline.net/Domain_Music/Chopin/

Like you said, many versions may have 2-3-2-3, and that works too.

Sorry, I can't give you any better ideas than you already have about the left hand, except to say that I find it challenging. It seems a lot easier when you listen to it. Good luck. It may be a while before I can play it decently.

-Selsa.
"...the luckiest man I know." - Arthur Rubinstein about himself.

Offline 88keys

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #8 on: November 14, 2002, 08:29:59 PM »
Thanks for the advice, everyone!

Looks like there is nothing wrong with using 5-3-1, at least as long as the skips aren't too big.

Ned, you said you've used the 531 fingering for the passage in question. Do you switch to 541 when the skips get larger? This sounds to me like the right way to go.

Offline ned

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #9 on: November 14, 2002, 09:08:51 PM »
88,
Right.  Depending on the shape of the figure, I recall that I use 4 as well as 2 in places, and the RH helps out in the huge interval just before the recapitulation.  I am in the office so I am not too clear on the details.

There is a tough similar spot just before the Coda of the Chopin Ballade in A flat.  He must have had an incredibly malleable LH.

Ned

Offline steinway23

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #10 on: March 01, 2003, 05:23:05 PM »
i believe fingering is a relative and debatable issue....
the fingering indicated in the music are ultimately suppose to be a recommendation or guide for us... the end result of a good fingering should be one that fits the performer's physique COMFORTABLY and also to take away unnecessary strains on the hand....

On the other hand, fingerings are also a revelation and insight to how the pieces should be played and also the right tone projected. It may seemed awkward at the start but you will leanr to appreciate the revelations and precious insights or the editors.....
a good example will be claudio arrau's edition of the beethoven piano sonatas- it contains some of the weirdest fingerings but when you get used to them, you realise that they are there for A PURPOSE- to bring out the right tone with a secure and right fingering or even phrasing.... it also helps to spread out the load amongst ur fingers so that you won't feel the strain....

Offline tosca1

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #11 on: March 01, 2003, 07:54:27 PM »
I completely agree with Steinway 23 that fingering is relative to the size and shape of the hands and fingers although we must also be aware that some fingerings may appear eccentric yet they have a  musical purpose as for example in the voicing of a chord.
I have the Alfred Cortot edition of the Chopin Studies. Cortot was a legendary exponent of Chopin and he produced extensive "Editions de Travail" not only for most of Chopin's music but for most of the romantic school as well. Fortunately these are available in translation and for the op 10 and op 25 studies,  Cortot offers much advice and alternatives with fingerings.  Indeed  these editions of the studies are very pedagogical and he gives excellent suggestions and exercises for tackling the formidable technical demands in these beautiful pieces.

Offline cziffra

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #12 on: April 12, 2003, 06:28:49 AM »
the Wiener-Urtext edition of the chopin etudes by Paul Badura Skoda gives Chopin's own fingering in Italics, wherever he left them, as well as editorial suggestions.  try those editions, they are expensive but fantastically useful.
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Offline tosca1

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #13 on: April 12, 2003, 07:00:26 AM »
Thank you vindin.  Paul Badura-Skoda is a beautiful pianist and I am sure that his fingerings and editorial comment would be invaluable.  I agree with 88keys and other opinions on this topic about  modifying fingerings to suit the individual hand.
What about trying 5-3-1-4-1-3 for the opening figure of Chopin's op 10 no.9? Changing the finger on the repeated c makes good sense.
There is a fiendish, repeated short LH  passage in Beethoven's op 90 E minor sonata first movement in a similar shape to the Chopin figure but in my opinion more difficult.
Robert.

Offline nearenough

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #14 on: January 23, 2009, 08:18:33 PM »
I find 5-4-1-4-1 impossible. I use 5-3-1-3-1 or even 5-2-1-3-1. 5-4 involves a painful stretch and I have relatively big hands. The right hand is trivial: 2-3 or whatever.

Offline scottical

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #15 on: January 29, 2009, 03:25:16 AM »
You know, I just wanted to say that I'm glad you pointed out that fingering issue in Opus 10 #9.  I've always found that fingering very difficult to execute.  A stretch that large between the two weakest fingers of the hand(particularly the left) is near impossible.  However, I believe that it can be done with ease, and in fact with less stress than the alternative fingering you mentioned if the proper technique is used.  Because the stretch is so large, it is required that you use a circular, sweeping motion to change the position of the wrist.  Try this out - it is better for the hand.

Regards,

Scott

Offline loonbohol

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #16 on: January 29, 2009, 05:02:54 AM »
Chopin Etudes Utilizes the pinky more than any other Etudes.
WE'll that can help
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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #17 on: January 29, 2009, 05:37:06 PM »
In the Etudes,  I find that the fingering can be awkward, and has to done correctly in order to attain the smoothness of the arpeggios.  With a small hand in particular.  Chopin's music, I think, was made for large hands and long fingers. However, when I learn an Etude, I let my hand(as well as the arm) do the walking, it rolls as the right or left hand executes the arpeggios.  This enables to connect the notes together without grabbing the keys. Like in 10/1, which I am working on.  The fingering and finger placement is a challenge in this piece.  Makes me humble to know how great a composer Chopin is because his music provides a variety of technical aspects that every pianist needs to learn.   = )

Offline mike_lang

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #18 on: January 30, 2009, 03:17:38 AM »
It is only the left hand I'm worried about here. I just can't help feeling that if Chopin wrote 5-4-1 (assuming the fingering really is by Chopin) than he must have known what he was doing...

According to Henle Urtext, it is not his fingering, but I think it is a good one in any case.  The key is not to hold the stretch, but simply to rotate from 5 to 4; the fourth finger is used to facilitate rotation between the C-Ab-C-Bb-C, etc, and so the fifth must be played almost sideways on the key.


Offline richard black

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #19 on: January 30, 2009, 09:56:00 AM »
It's worth looking at Vladimir de Pachmann's edition, with his own multiple fingerings, especially if you have small hands. I don't think he edited all the studies but the few I've seen are very interesting.
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Offline mike_lang

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #20 on: January 30, 2009, 11:05:11 AM »
It's worth looking at Vladimir de Pachmann's edition, with his own multiple fingerings, especially if you have small hands.

That may be true, but I don't believe Chopin had particularly large hands either - in fact, his technique is so versatile that hand size is hardly an issue!  Much can be understood just from the first étude, which so many try to put into positions and stretch, but which can be done most effectively only by a successful rotation on the fulcrum which is the second finger. 

It is true that the fourth finger on C is not shown in Chopin's autograph, thus, it does not appear in the urtext, HOWEVER, it has appeared in so many editions that it is almost certain that this is the fingering he gave to his students. 

Why? 

It is important to answer this question in each and every case, and not to avoid it - many times, the technical problem is partially (or even sometimes completely solved) by understanding HIS fingering.

Offline general disarray

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #21 on: January 30, 2009, 03:19:13 PM »
According to Henle Urtext, it is not his fingering, but I think it is a good one in any case.  The key is not to hold the stretch, but simply to rotate from 5 to 4; the fourth finger is used to facilitate rotation between the C-Ab-C-Bb-C, etc, and so the fifth must be played almost sideways on the key.



This Etude is probably the easiest of Opus 10.  Using 5-3 enables the same rotation that 5-4 does with considerably less tension for a small hand -- or a large hand. 

If Chopin used 5-4, then he had a huge stretch between what had to be very elongated fingers 5 and 4.

In fact, there is a photograph of the modelling of his left hand by J. B. Clesinger (1849), reproduced in the Paderewski Edition, that clearly shows the anatomical feature of his hand. LONG fingers with wide spacing on a broad palm.  In fact, PERFECT hands for playing Chopin!

The Paderewski Edition offers 5-4 and 5-3 as fingering options.  Using 5-4, in my case, would turn this rather easy piece into an unplayable torture chamber of tension.

5-3.  That's the workable choice. If you want a REAL Etude exploiting this LH problem, tackle Chopin's Op. 28, No. 24.  I think Chopin confused his Etude for his Prelude and vice versa.
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Offline mike_lang

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #22 on: January 30, 2009, 06:34:22 PM »
This Etude is probably the easiest of Opus 10.  Using 5-3 enables the same rotation that 5-4 does with considerably less tension for a small hand -- or a large hand. 

If Chopin used 5-4, then he had a huge stretch between what had to be very elongated fingers 5 and 4.

In fact, there is a photograph of the modelling of his left hand by J. B. Clesinger (1849), reproduced in the Paderewski Edition, that clearly shows the anatomical feature of his hand. LONG fingers with wide spacing on a broad palm.  In fact, PERFECT hands for playing Chopin!

The Paderewski Edition offers 5-4 and 5-3 as fingering options.  Using 5-4, in my case, would turn this rather easy piece into an unplayable torture chamber of tension.

5-3.  That's the workable choice. If you want a REAL Etude exploiting this LH problem, tackle Chopin's Op. 28, No. 24.  I think Chopin confused his Etude for his Prelude and vice versa.

Perhaps, but it is only a torture chamber of tension if you hold the stretch for 5-4.  It is a shift only.

Best,

ML

Offline gerry

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #23 on: February 04, 2009, 03:32:01 AM »
Along with such considerations as facilitating melodic lines and accomodating the students' hands, should we also take into consideration that these are "Etudes" (albeit performance ones) and that each one has at it's core the exercising and development of a particular technical challenge? There are several instances in the Opus 10 & 28 where one can substitute alternate fingering but is this defeating the purpose? I don't really have an answer as I haven't focused on this particular Etude, although at first glance it would seem that use of the fourth finger is a bit of a stretch...!  Thanks for all the scholarly input on this subject. It makes for an interesting discussion.
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Offline nearenough

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #24 on: February 18, 2009, 02:51:11 AM »
Does anyone actually know what the Chopin fingering is for this Etude Op 10 #9? If not, then no one knows what the "etude" (study) aspect of the left hand fingering actually is supposed to be. If it is painful for some to use 5 - 4 and easier to use 5 - 3 then it would seem right to use 5 - 3. If you think that a jump, twist or turn of the hand is better, hopefully maintaining the legato, in the conviction that 5 - 4 is the "study" requirement, then by all means do so. I just like 5 -3.

Offline cloches_de_geneve

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #25 on: February 18, 2009, 08:57:44 PM »
The Cortot edition has 531, not 541. I would never have dreamt to come up with 541. Unless you use this etude as some kind of "drill" to improve 54 stretch.

I can recommend the Cortot edition, which includes special excercises for each etude.
But it's a pity that Liszt never made an edition of the etudes. Liszt has always the best fingerings.
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Offline mike_lang

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Re: The Chopin Etudes - a fingering dilemma
«Reply #26 on: February 19, 2009, 02:14:45 AM »
Unless you use this etude as some kind of "drill" to improve 54 stretch.

If the 5-4 is stretched, the execution is wrong - this fingering implies a rotation and slight shift.

Best,
ML